High Expectations of the Bus Driver

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I slept-in the following morning and took my time freshening up. It was my last day in Singapore and I had to check out of the hostel by noon. My bus wouldn’t leave until six in the evening, so I hoped that the staff would allow me to leave my luggage in the lobby while I went on my last adventure: Doing my laundry and getting lunch.
After eating my cereal in the morning, I brought my bag of clothes up to the roof for cleaning. There was a man already waiting for his load to finish and we started talking.
He reminded me of a nice, latino version of Lenny from the Power Puff Girls. He talked and talked, and seemed to have a real passion for voicing his opinions and experiences.
I mentioned to him that I would be going on a bus from Singapore to Thailand that would take me a full day. With that, he went on for about 20 minutes about how he knows people who died on those kinds of buses. “Just one little deer in the middle of the road would do it. Buses don’t stand a chance”. I was horrified. In Japanese we have a phrase for this called Kuuki Yomenai(空気読めない), which literally means, “Someone who can’t read the air”. He kept going on even though I obviously didn’t want to hear more about how likely I was to die on the trip.

After all of the graphic stories, he was kind enough to point out Little India to me from the roof. It seemed close so I decided to walk around in that area to find a Indian restaurant.

I finished preparing the schedule for the bus, and left in search for food. Red umbrella in hand, I walked in the direction that my laundry friend pointed me in. The roads were confusing, and getting lost was inevitable. I did make it to an Indian-like shop, but got stuck there because of the heavy rain. I hoped it would let up, but with it being monsoon season it didn’t happen. I don’t know where my sense of direction went, but I walked in circles while the rain poured down on me.

I arrived back to my warm hostel completely soaked. I still had a couple of hours before my bus would leave. Enough time to dry myself and bid farewell to all of my friends. With some last hugs and kisses to my hostel-mates, I packed and set off to the bus stop.

Boarding was chaotic, and it looked like I would be the passenger that was a tourist. A couple of friendly Singapore natives introduced themselves to me. I was pleased that I would have a couple of friends while traveling, and had no idea at the time how much I would appreciate them later on.

I built up an image of my bus driver in my head as this slightly overweight, smiley Singaporean male with a face that said, “I will get you to your destination safely!”. However, when my bus driver made his entrance, I was disappointed. He was a hunched over, short man with a scowl and spoke in loud Malay. No English except, “NO TOILET ON BUS!”.

Online you could choose your seat, and I went with seat 1#. When I got on the bus, I realized that I was the only one with a clear view of the driver. He was a speed demon, and as the sun went down, so did any of my safety expectations.

An hour and a half into the trip we crossed the Malaysian border. I had the thought, “He may not look like how I had pictured, and he may be driving really fast in the dark, but I bet he takes his job really seriously.” The moment that thought went through my head, I see his hand reach into his pocket and pull out his cellphone. The man started to text and drive. My mouth dropped to the floor. I had read one too many articles about accidents in cars from texting and driving and this man was in charge of the twenty lives sitting in the back.

It was a very stressful night as I watched him pull out his mobile multiple times to text. He moved on to hands-free calling as well. I was relived that at least he had the sense to do that.
Though out the night, my paranoid mind started planning my funeral music and the chances of me not arriving in Thailand seemed high.

Around midnight, a loud siren sounded off in the back of the bus and red lights came into view. On my left, three ambulances shot by me. I winced. “Please don’t let it be a bus. Don’t let anyone be hurt, but just don’t let it be a bus”.
I saw the car reck and felt a little sick. It was a van. I would be riding one the next day after reaching Thailand.

On of the notes that I jotted down in the middle of the night was: “I just want to pass out and wake up when we get there”. I had no grit for this trip at all.

After another ambulance whizzed by, and 278 more kilometers to go before we reached Kuala Lumpur, I actually started to get a little drowsy. I decided to do my best to take a nap. I closed my eyes for five minutes and I started to smell something funny. What was that smell? I know that smell, but what would that smell be doing on this bus? Oh, of course. The bus driver.
I open my eyes to him smoking a cigarette in the middle of the night. By this time, I wasn’t even surprised. I just wanted to get to Thailand.

The two Singapore gentlemen were lucky to be sitting way in the back out of view of anything I was seeing. We got off a couple of times, and thanks to their carefree attitudes, I had a tolerable trip. If It had not been for them, I do not think I would have made it out of Singapore sane.

We did a lot of talking, and they bought me a meal at the food court in Malaysia for dinner. They were high school buddies and had known each other for about ten years. When they passed money to the clerks at the food court, they told me that as a tradition in Malaysia, you have to pass and receive things with your right hand. It is seen as rude if done with your left.

The three of us got back on the bus, along with a new bus driver with a bright red T-shrit with the words, “Safty-First” printed brightly on the back. I prayed that this one would be better than the last guy.
He was very similar to the last guy. Except he didn’t talk on the phone hands-free.

After the longest 14 hours I have ever lived through, we arrived in Thailand. My new Singaporean bodyguards were going to Krabi and I was going to Phuket, this would be the last time to see them. I gave them a couple of my cards with my name scribbled on the back, but I forgot to ask for their names. Not getting their contact information is one of my biggest regrets of the trip.

I had one more leg of the journey and was the most physically exhausting. It would be another long day in front of me, but it was morning and everyone was alive and well. I was hopeful that I could get to Phuket in one piece and looked forward to what the rest of the afternoon would hold. I thought that since the sun was up, the driver would be able to see the road better, increasing my chances of not dying before reaching my destination.


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